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Dreaming of a day where the Senators are vibrant and competitive again

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With the trucker occupation ended, the residents of Ottawa can get back to more mundane concerns, such as the Senators power play and restoring health to their injured starters.

Is that too much to ask, or even dream about?

A book from a Harvard Medical School dream researcher came across my desk recently. Deirdre Barrett, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard, compiled dream data during nearly two years of pandemic dreaming. Not surprisingly, people dream more during times of a global crisis and the dreams tend to reflect reality, then sadistically torque things even further.

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So it is that Barrett, in her online survey, heard tales of killer bug nightmares, and horrible mask-related scenarios that caused the dreamer to jolt awake in a state of anxiety. But then she delivered this silver lining. More recently, people are finding increasing joy in their dreams – dreams of being together with family and friends again, out socializing at our favourite restaurants and nightclubs. A brighter day, in other words. A fuller life again.

Barrett even offers tips on how to dream more positively. For example, one should maintain positive thoughts at bedtime and might want to keep an object or photograph of the desired dream near your bed as you go to sleep.

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For Ottawa hockey fans, we are imagining photos of local hockey heroes like Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stützle or Artem Zub.

On this Family Day, we carry that thought even further to dreams of a brighter future for the Ottawa community as it relates to the Senators franchise, which continues to pull itself out of a rebuild that has been fraught with injuries, crowd restrictions and massive game rescheduling due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

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Over the weekend, the Senators finally opened the doors of the Canadian Tire Centre to half-capacity for games against the Boston Bruins Saturday night and the New York Rangers at twilight on Sunday (an overtime loss and regulation loss). That meant 9,000-plus could have attended each game and yet these Original Six teams drew gates of just 5,212 and 5,181. Temporarily, we are handing out mulligans for those attendance figures.

We picture a day soon when the hockey team doesn’t have to compete with the distractions of a trucker convoy that descended on the steps of Parliament Hill for three-plus-weeks of chaos; or the addition of postponed games during what was supposed to be the NHL’s Olympic hockey break.

And that is just the beginning of a Family Day/dream.

Enough is enough. Time to compete

We imagine a time when the Senators are contenders again. To use that inane expression: enough is enough. Ottawa is about to miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for a fifth straight season. The last time this team played meaningful games, Dion Phaneuf was on the blue line and Phaneuf and Kyle Turris were scoring overtime goals.

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We picture, as early as next season, a time when Stützle doesn’t just dance and dazzle, but outmuscles opponents, too. It will be the day he reminds us of a young Marian Hossa.

We envision a day when the power play is a real threat again. It could come as early as next month when the hope is that Drake Batherson and Josh Norris are back in the lineup and providing a legitimate No. 1 line.

We dream of ‘stopper’ quality goalies who also stay healthy. Is that you, Matt Murray? Filip Gustavsson? Or will it be the moment the Mads Sogaard ship comes in? On the day after Andrew (The Hamburglar) Hammond’s triumphant return in Montreal, who can say with certainty where goalies are concerned?

A future blue line has Ottawa hearts aflutter. Thomas Chabot, Jake Sanderson, Lassi Thompson, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Tyler Kleven are among other potential starters here. No team gets taken seriously until it has a blue line that is a force. Think of the Cup-winning defensive corps of the St. Louis Blues or Tampa Bay Lightning.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

We imagine a home arena packed with fans, and not just the several thousand who own season’s tickets at the moment. A growing, talented team deserves support. This core group has skill, work ethic and personality. What is not to like when they are all healthy and – vitally – are properly supported by additional veterans and role players to give Ottawa four lines worth of depth?

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Why limit the dream to a boisterous CTC crowd in Kanata? Why not imagine the Senators franchise where it should be – just west of Parliament Hill in the valley of LeBreton Flats. It isn’t too late for the Senators to be part of a “major event centre” in the Flats. A central location, near an LRT hub and downtown Ottawa and the Byward Market could revitalize the franchise while anchoring a development that has turned into a piecemeal, hodge-podge plan at the moment.

The Canadian Tire Centre, which was called the Palladium when it first opened in January of 1996, just turned 26 years old. It is tired, though efforts have been made to maintain it. Planning for a central venue in a new facility could drive plans for the organization.

Dream big. Dream small. Dream of a day when the Ottawa Senators are vital again.





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Montreal Canadiens look back at Canada’s last Stanley Cup three decades later

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Kirk Muller remembers the speech like it was yesterday.

Down 2-0 to the Quebec Nordiques in the first round of the 1993 playoffs — and coming off a clunky regular-season finish — Montreal Canadiens general manager Serge Savard addressed the group during a meal.

“Our plane broke down and we stayed an extra night,” Muller, the team’s No. 1 centre, recalled of Game 2’s aftermath in Quebec City. “(Savard) stood up and goes, ‘If you keep playing the way you are, you’re gonna win this series.”’

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Muller paused for a moment in his retelling.

“The way Serge said it,” he continued. “So calm.”

Patrick Roy, meanwhile, wasn’t sure he’d even get the start from Jacques Demers in Game 3.

“I wasn’t very good,” the Hall of Fame goaltender added of his play through two contests. “Lucky enough to have a coach that believed in us and believed in myself.”

Then everything — almost as if preordained — fell into place.

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The Canadiens won the next four against their bitter rivals, swept the Buffalo Sabres, and got past the upstart New York Islanders to set the stage for a Stanley Cup Final against Los Angeles.

“Things can turn around quickly,” Savard, a 10-time Cup winner, recalled in a 2020 biography. “It doesn’t take much to change the rhythm of a game or a series.”

Montreal then completed its magical run by besting Wayne Gretzky’s Kings to claim the Original Six franchise’s 24th title — one sparked by a record-setting 10 straight overtime victories on the back of Roy’s string of stellar performances.

Canada is still awaiting its next champion.

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“Amazing it’s been 30 years,” said Guy Carbonneau, the last captain from a team north of the border handed hockey’s Holy Grail. “Not just Montreal, which is pretty unusual, but in Canada.”

That’s the reality.

Friday marks three decades since the Habs celebrated that victory on a sweltering night at the Montreal Forum.

Vancouver (1994, 2011), Calgary (2004), Edmonton (2006), Ottawa (2007) and Montreal (2021) have all made the final since, but stumbled at the last hurdle.

There are plenty of theories why the dry run has stretched this long — from the weight of expectation to better tax incentives for players in some U.S. markets — but it really just proves one thing to Patrice Brisebois.

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“So hard to win,” said the former Canadiens defenceman. “Even in ’93, we needed luck.”

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The pressure continues to mount on Canada’s seven-club NHL contingent, but that Montreal team faced a drought of its own. Seven years had passed since the Canadiens hoisted Lord Stanley’s mug — at that point the city’s longest dry spell.

“Something they weren’t used to,” Muller, an associate coach with Calgary, said with a laugh.

Things didn’t look promising heading into the 1993 playoffs.

“Don’t even think we were projected to get out of the first round,” said ex-Montreal blueliner Mathieu Schneider.

Demers, however, was confident from Day 1, especially after Savard acquired forwards Vincent Damphousse and Brian Bellows.

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“First meeting, Jacques comes in and goes, ‘We’re going to shock the hockey world, we’re going to win the Stanley Cup,”’ Brisebois said.

Roy remembers looking around the room at his teammates.

“We’re like, ‘Really?”’ said Roy, who recently completed his final season as coach and GM of the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts with a Memorial Cup title. “But (Demers) was such a positive man.

“One of the reasons why we were capable of doing it.”

The Canadiens had a good season and ended up third in the Adams Division despite finishing with four regulation victories over their final 18 games.

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“Everybody was smart enough to know it was going to be a stretch,” Carbonneau, a Hall of Fame centre, said of his coach’s Cup prediction. “He never wavered.”

But what Demers — and the Canadiens — needed was for Roy to step up following a sub-par campaign and those poor early showings against the Nordiques.

All the netminder did from there was win the next 11 playoff games against Quebec, Buffalo and New York, including seven in OT, before the Islanders avoided the sweep in a series that would end two nights later.

“You can see when a goalie has that confidence,” said Schneider, who works for the NHL Players’ Association. “Just surreal.”

Before the New York series, however, the Canadiens still had a massive obstacle on their title path — Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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After the Islanders upset the two-time defending champs in the second round, Montreal really started to believe.

“When (New York) scored in overtime in Game 7 we were jumping,” Brisebois said.

The Islanders were subsequently brushed aside in five games by the Canadiens, L.A. entered the final coming off a defeat of Toronto to deny fans a mouth-watering, all-Canadian tilt.

“The Maple Leafs and Dougie (Gilmour) were having a great playoffs,” Muller said. “Built up a lot of hype.”

Gretzky and the Kings would have to do.

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Montreal dropped the opener at home, but responded in Game 2 following a gutsy decision by Demers to have officials check for an illegal curve on Marty McSorely’s stick with the Canadiens trailing 2-1.

The Kings defenceman was assessed a penalty that led to the tying goal before Montreal won in OT to knot the series.

“Game-changer,” Brisebois said of Demers’ curve call. “If that doesn’t happen, I don’t know.

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“Can you imagine if the curve was legal? Maybe it’s over.”

The Canadiens picked up two more OT victories in California to give them an even 10 on the spring and set up a 4-1 triumph in Game 5 that sealed their 24th Cup.

“Patrick was Patrick,” Brisebois said of Roy. “He was our key man from the first round until the final.”

As things turned ugly in the streets with rioters wreaking havoc that night, players weren’t allowed to leave the Forum for a few hours. The same went for the franchise greats on hand, including Maurice (Rocket) Richard and Yvan Cournoyer.

There would be no celebration out on the town. Just beers with some legends.

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“You’re so happy,” Brisebois said. “So much love and joy.”

“Never would have planned that,” Muller added. “Ended up being really cool.”

He’s also convinced the cool, reassuring message from Savard after Game 2 against Quebec made all the difference.

“Could have went the other way real quickly,” Muller said. “Big turning point. Who would have thought?”

The same could be asked about Canada’s Cup drought — one set to enter its fourth decade.

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What we learned in MLB this week: The Dodgers' bullpen has been a disaster

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Julio Rodríguez is back, Marcus Stroman is elite, and the Dodgers have a major weakness. Here’s what we learned across MLB in Week 10.



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Heat vs Nuggets: NBA Finals prediction, picks, Game 4 odds, series odds, schedule

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The NBA Finals matchup is set as the Denver Nuggets are taking on the Miami Heat. Here’s a look at the series odds, Game 3 betting lines and an expert pick from Jason McIntyre.



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